Were Plato alive today, he'd declare a sixth platonic solid: de_dust2, representing the sixth element of devotion. This sacred configuration of geometry escaped its confinement in Counter-Strike and for eighteen years the map has lived in the hearts of men, re-emerging in dreams, in other games with level editors, and in mashed potato sculptures carved at the dinner table. But in the far future, the last remaining copy of de_dust2 is maintained inside Dustnet, a multiplayer sandbox building self-aware deathmatch museum... thing? It's out now, I've played a bit, I adore it, and I'm excited to figure out exactly what it is.
"Welcome to Dustnet, please be respectful, this is the last copy of de_dust2 we have," says the message of the day upon joining a server.
It is CS, in a way, with bombs to plant and defuse as we roam a wireframe version of de_dust2 with a mix of CS and Quake guns. A heavily modded server, then, of the sort that would have infuriated me back in the day with weird additions and commands. Dust2 is just the starting point. Players can build in and around and over it, slapping down new blocks, copying and pasting parts, and fiddling until pyramids are stacked high into the sky, hanging gardens rise from the void, and so many names are scrawled in the sky with lava cubes.
While regular PC players are wee fellas scurrying around, players with cybergoggles can jack in to appear as cybergods. They manifest in-game as a giant pair of hands with two blinking sigils hanging above for eyes, and can zap big explosions out the eyeballs on their palms.
You can also play in augmented reality on your pocket telephone, laying dust2 down on your floor and crawling around like a pilgrim in a labyrinth. All on the same server.
So you can build over the ruins of Dust2. Or play Dust2. Or wander through the combination of both, lost in a cyberdream about unreal spaces I may now know better than my childhood home. It is a fascinating way to remember a map, a game, a culture. I will need a few days to process Dustnet.
Made by Scrnprnt, Dustnet is out now for Windows and Mac. It's on Steam and Itch.io, with a wee launch discount bringing it down to £4.07/€4.24/$5.09 until Tuesday the 23rd. VR-wise, it supports Vive and Rift goggs. The AR edition is free for Android and Apple pocket telephone editions.
Also, I have enjoyed Dustnet's startup sequence so very much (do watch with sound on):